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Mobility Denied

An allegorical crossing-over to the other side of social mobility in the time of COVID-19

By Nayden Tafradzhiyski

Credit to TheDigitalArtist

We live in a world of ever-increasing globalisation, mobility, and interconnectedness, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly reminded many of us of the fragility of this world. But it has also made me rethink and re-evaluate its merits.

If you are someone like me, who takes a plane about ten times a year and spends his time living between two countries, while working remotely for a company based in yet a third one, the COVID-19 crisis has certainly changed your perspective of the world we live in. Suddenly, it became an unfamiliarly small place.

Aside from the general inconvenience of having to spend all my time at home, barring the occasional visit to the supermarket, the COVID-19 crisis has also given me plenty of time to think. And one of the most novel realisations I have made so far was that since March, when I moved into my current place of residence, I had spent over eight months in the same house, let alone the same city. A new record for me since 2016 when I started my studies and my roughly trimestral country hoppings.

The realisation itself truly startled me at first. The self-reflective judgement came afterwards when I finally got to rethink and re-evaluate the chances I have had in life. And although I had never before considered myself as particularly privileged in life, I had never questioned my own status in society either.

I had been given one of the greatest gifts one could ask for in this current age – mobility, both spatial and social, though, in reality, the two presuppose one another to such an extent that they often become undistinguishable and could be considered as the two sides of the same coin.

Going abroad for university was no big deal for me back in 2016. Neither was spending a year abroad as an ERASMUS exchange student. The fact that my parents supported me financially even throughout this period despite the programme being funded by the European Union was similarly unchallenged. Doing several unpaid internships to increase my employability prospects was only natural. After all, isn’t this what we all do, what we are all supposed to do?

I wasn’t completely ignorant either, I knew that this is not the kind of life most of the people have. But social being determines consciousness, doesn’t it? And I was selfish and perhaps even lazy, I was surrounded by examples to the contrary and was happy to ignore the reality. I had my fights to fight.

But having spent the last eight, almost nine now, months of my life in the same city, in the same house, and for the most part in the same room, I refuse to continue believing that everything is normal or that things will turn out fine somehow. I have spent almost a year in the same house and I don’t want to imagine what it would be to spend one’s entire lifetime in the same town or village, quietly hoping that things will become better eventually.

Our society is divided and will be getting even more divided if we continue to hope for a return to “normality” after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. There are the ones who are involved in several extracurricular activities and who do (unpaid) internships and go on ERASMUS exchanges and those who have to work to afford their studies, can’t do unpaid internships in big cities and are scared to go on exchanges because they will lose their jobs back home. Good thing that “zero experience” entry-level positions really mean that.

In a class-obsessed county like Britain, attending university is the best way to experience social mobility. But a university education means less and less by the day, no longer a competitive advantage but a requirement, no longer a guarantor for social mobility but a small step toward it.

And as I sit and write this now, waiting for “normality” to return, I begin to realise that “normality” is certainly not what we need or should want now. The COVID-19 has already changed our precepts of reality and society on countless occasions, it is high time that we rethought mobility as well.


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